Friday, March 06, 2009
The Political Implications of Loving My Wife
It has been way too long since my last post. Slowly, I'm trying to pull myself back into blogging, so those of you with belief in prayer's efficacy may liberally bathe me in prayers for the discipline to get back to business here.
Carol Elaine Durkin Trott, my beloved, is today being routinely scanned for any recurrences of her thyroid cancer back in 2000. Her thyroid was removed then, but every so often she has to be checked to insure no thyroid tissue remains to spread cancer in her body. This is done by injecting Carol with radioactive iodine, as happened a few days ago. Iodine "sticks to" thyroid tissue, and the radioactivity of the iodine will hopefully kill off the thyroid tissue it finds. So in short the test is also a treatment, one of the reasons thyroid cancer has such a high cure rate compared with some other cancers.
The scan's results will come back in a week or so.
Over the past few days, Carol wasn't allowed to be closer than three feet from me. She had to clean up after herself wherever she went, which was limited to within our small apartment. I was put in the position of being her servant for anything she needed. (Ah, say my female readers, a male put into a role he probably doesn't inhabit all that much normally... and those readers would be more correct than I am at all comfortable admitting!) Carol disliked this situation more than I did, I suspect; she's active, a go-getter. Being stuck sitting on a couch wasn't much to her liking.
But as always happens when the spectre of Carol's past cancers -- no matter how ephemeral -- comes to the fore, I find myself feeling a breath of fear on my neck. Fear, but also gratefulness. Carol has survived not only thyroid cancer but also breast cancer, which I discovered while we were being close one evening. My own grandmother died of breast cancer, and it affects many women on my side of our family, some of whom have died as a result. So I fear it. Many others we've both known also died via cancer. Yet others we know struggle at present with cancer, including one of our JPUSA sisters and a Facebook friend of mine, Patsy Moore.
So... I love my wife. I am glad she's alive and tremble just a little even in these routine moments which remind me of our journey through cancer together. Because I am thinking of Carol, then, I offer the following.
* * *
How do I love my wife?
This is a question with at least two very different meanings. The first meaning one might find in the question has to do with my efficiency, my ability, my talent for loving her. Am I good at loving my wife the same way a basketball player is good (or not) at scoring? The question becomes one with pragmatic rather than philosophical / theological implications.
The second meaning touches on the first, but is more a question I ask myself. How do I do this love thing? What is loving someone about? Or, to be specific, what language of love can I speak to best meet Carol's own love-hunger rather than my own hunger disguised as how I *want* her to hunger? Tricky.
These aren't the questions I'll answer here, by the way. Instead, I want to examine how these questions are political questions.
Carol is a person as I am a person, yet she is not me. In my gut, I often believe that her needs aren't quite all that my needs are. In my dark places I think I deserve to have my needs met before hers are met. I also, too often, think that my thoughts are more intelligent, coherent, and (gulp!) true than her thoughts. In short, there is a little fascist in me.
My faith assaults that inner Nazi. "Do to others what you would have them do to you." "Love your enemies." (Oh, yes... sometimes Carol becomes my enemy because she will not be friends on my terms!) " Or, as Philippians 2:3,4 put it, "Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others."
How does this sort of love radically redistribute my internal values regarding Carol? My material goods? My goals and purposes for what I do, how I do it, when I do it? Carol -- the Other -- looks at me for her own orientation in this world, and as she does this so do I look to her (we are mutuality/egalitarian folks, not hierarchalist/complementarian).
As I try to love her as described by Jesus and Jesus' Apostles, I find my own needs, wants, thoughts, and feelings intermingled with hers progressively. That is, the further we go on together the more difficult it becomes to tell where my own hungers / needs end and hers begin. I consider this the Grace of God.
I also consider it the basis for my politics. If God's Son, He Who Perfectly embodied Love in full humanity as well as full Godhood, demoted himself to become Servant of all... what does that say about a political framework majoring on the gathering of power, the usage of progressively more and more military might, the intentional ignoring of scientists' warnings to continue abusing our planet, and finally the "othering" of those we deem "evil" (a strange term to exclude ourselves from!)?
I love my wife. But I don't love her well at all times. I don't love my neighbor well at all times, either. But both personally and politically, I don't have permission not to try.